Verjus is Vergood

I have added another major tick to my “Culinary Adventures To Have Before I Leave Paris” list. Last night my friend Jen and I had a “Day After Valentine’s Day” date at Verjus – another highly prized, much talked about restaurant in the Paris foodie world. Located in the first arrondissement next to Louis XIV’s old haunt, the Palais Royal, Verjus is a bit more upmarket than previous restaurants we have been to and we went there for their 60 Euro degustation menu.

I should perhaps mention that my day began with a pre-breakfast meal of drugs – cold tablets, nasal spray and cough medicine. I wasn’t particularly impressed that my body had decided to give me a cold on the one day that I really wanted my taste buds to be fully functional. But being a non-believer in colds, I pumped myself full of drugs and ignored it all day.

Goodbye, cold.

Goodbye, cold.

We met for a drink at the Verjus winebar located underneath the restaurant and as we walked in we both agreed that the ten or so people in the wine bar would all be non-French, most likely American, British or Australian. CORRECT! Not a word of French was being spoken and I don’t think there were any French people in the wine bar or the restaurant at any point in the entire night.

The upstairs restaurant is small and cozy with lots of wood and great windows that look out at the Théâtre du Palais Royal and the little passages surrounding the building. We were served by lovely waitresses who told us about the set menu, happily gave us tap water and recommended a good bottle of wine to go with our food. And then it began…

I got to eat ALL of that!

I got to eat ALL of that!

We were served eight plates in total and we could have also had cheese for an extra 12 Euros but we figured eight was enough. Each plate was beautifully presented with bright colours and interesting mixes of ingredients. It amazes me how chefs know to put some of these ingredients together and in what sort of quantity/shape/texture etc. Nothing was disappointing or disagreeable – I even ate clams and scallops and enjoyed them! I was very annoyed that, despite ignoring it, my cold had taken over by this point and I didn’t get to enjoy my food as much as I wanted to. However, the highlight dishes for me were the clam soup, the hanger steak with carrots, and the chocolate ganache.

Duck.

Duck.

Steak.

Steak.

Somewhat strangely they brought the two dessert plates out at the same time which I didn’t really agree with because I had both of them staring at me and it was as if the dessert courses weren’t as important as the others. That said, it isn’t every day that I have two plates of dessert sitting in front me and I get to eat BOTH of them.

Two desserts, one spoon.

Two desserts, one spoon.

The cardamon panna cotta had a very gelatinous texture which distracted from the flavour but once you got over that and mixed it with the pears, dates and almonds it was delightful and light. The chocolate ganache was one of the best chocolate ganaches I have ever had (and I’ve had a lot) and the Golden Graham ice cream was amazingly creamy. I could have kept eating both of them all night. In fact, I could have started the entire menu again – it was all so good.

Chocolate.

Chocolate.

For 60 Euros it was one of the best value dinners I have had in Paris – the quality of the ingredients and the presentation and craftsmanship behind each dish was just wonderful. I will definitely try and go back.

Except next time I go, I am going to take a large bucket of socks that I have pre-rolled into balls that I can stuff into the mouths of all of the excessively loud American tourists who surrounded our table. I had my back to a window, but on every other side of the table were groups whose voices became increasingly louder and louder as they fought to talk over the top of the rest of the noise. I really wanted to stand up, blow a whistle and call “Time Out” and offer a small piece of wisdom that I learnt at Primary School – if everyone speaks softly then everyone can be heard and no one needs to yell! The problem with these situations is that you start eavesdropping on the conversations because you can’t hear anything else and you have to listen to their discussions about how they don’t understand how the degustation menu works or how the guy who likes motorcycles proposed to his girlfriend on the plane on the way over because it was Valentine’s Day and yet before their friends arrived they had a little tiff about how she didn’t have a clue where they were going and that was his fault. Wow. I should write a book about it.

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13 Responses to “Verjus is Vergood”

  1. Proud American says:

    Dear Miss Davies,

    I found your blog posting about dining at Verjus interesting, until I read the words you used to describe the conversation level in the restaurant and bar where you singled out Americans for abuse.

    You wrote the following:

    “Except next time I go, I am going to take a large bucket of socks that I have pre-rolled into balls that I can stuff into the mouths of all of the excessively loud American tourists who surrounded our table.”

    Shame on you for exposing yourself as a bigot, a self righteous uptight youth, and quite full of yourself.

    Your writing did not serve the American chef and Verjus owners Braden Perkins and Laura Adrian very well, despite your having an “amazing meal”. Wow. What planet are you from? Planet Bigot? Did you forget that you are also a guest of France? Did the thought ever cross your mind that they might have been Canadians?

    Perhaps your writing would be better served if you outgrew your obvious dislike of and prejudice towards US citizens. It was obvious in your writing that you are not fond of Americans being in Paris, despite their excellent support of the French economy and tourism.

    I have had many years of pleasure racing yachts against Australians, and honestly, when they get rolling at the bar after a race, my best schoolyard monitor voice cannot be heard over their brash and booming banter, often described by observers as screaming loud drunken asses.

    The difference between you and well mannered humans is that we keep looking for the good in people, do not discuss or generalize behavior of others, nor express a personal bigotry in a blog.

    One should not throw stones when one lives in a glass house.

    Having traveled through Northern Italy with a food writer from Sydney, I know the stereotype of drunken, crass, and rude Australian does not fit everyone. Unfortunately, your writing type cast you and exposed your upbringing. You are not one to call out Americans for speaking loud enough to be heard while stating that you will be stuffing balled up socks in their mouths. Utterly manner and class less thoughts. Your parents should address your malevolence with you.

    Your words betrayed you. You cast yourself in an unfavorable light by dissing the Americans, your fellow diners, in the resto Verjus and the Verjus Bar. Issues with conversational volume in an ancient and low ceiling building are beyond the control of any restaurant owner and their staff.

    The blog posting demonstrated incredibly poor judgement by exposing your negative bias in a review of an incredible restaurant. Such is the folly of a neophyte. You are never going to be a success as a writer with this type of correspondence.

    The restaurant Verjus is often full of Americans, as many of them are followers of the chef from the US who book reservations months ahead of their visit to Paris.

    Parisians have not embraced Braden as they have the owners of L’Office, Frenchie, or other sons of France. A good percentage of Braden’s clientele are expats and Americans who appreciative a great dining experience. Braden and his lovely, incredibly talented wife Laura are Americans by birth.

    When sitting cheek to jowl with brutish French in Parisian restaurants, where normal noise levels could be disruptive to a dining experience, we focus on our own table, never needing to look beyond. My companions and I somehow manage to enjoy the food, wine, and each other without disparaging thoughts about fellow diners. We certainly do not discuss the behavior of others and cast a negative light on the restaurant because of our own issues or discontent as you did.

    Hopefully, maturity, wisdom and adopting proper manners will teach you tolerance. Suggest you fake it til you make it, rewrite the resto review & delete the bigotry.

    If your dream is to continue to open a place in Paris, you will need to temper your personal prejudices or you will starve for customers.

    I will not be reading your blog again because of what you wrote about Americans.

    I hope other well mannered humans take offense at your comments and boycott you as well.

    Montaigne wrote:
    We all call barbarous anything that is contrary to our own habits. Indeed we seem to have no other criterion of truth and reason than the type and kind of opinions and customs current in the land where we live. There we always see the perfect religion, the perfect political system, the perfect and most accomplished way of doing everything.

    Yours sincerely,
    A Proud American

  2. James says:

    Proud American, why not leave your real name and a link to your blog? Or do you just troll on other people’s blogs?

  3. Philip McVey says:

    Interesting comments from ‘A Proud American’. You know you’re probably about to read something fair, reasoned and completely hysteria-free when you see a moniker like that. You just know you’re going to be treated to wisdom and high minded idealism from a citizen of the nation that enshrined the idea of free speech into its constitution. You can rest assured that they certainly won’t be infringing on a writer’s right to state their own opinions.

    Im not sure if The Proud American is intending to be ironic, and if that’s the case please forgive me, but I find it strange that a post complaining about bigotry, poor manners and a slovenly upbringing describes one nationality as ‘drunken asses’ and another as ‘brutish’. I’m similarly baffled that someone who claims not to generalise about others then goes on to claim that a personal experience of one Australian alleviated his fears that they are all ‘drunken, rude and crass’.

    Yes, Miss Davies, why can’t you be more like this ‘Proud American’ spreading his/her good manners, lack of bias and economic well being to the French and their economy? No doubt the correspondent has done much to convert those brutish French to the culture and customs of that nation that continues to spend a large part of its GDP on bombing poor middle eastern nations. You know, the same country that concentrates 95% of its wealth in to the hands of 2% of its citizens. Or you may know it as the place that allows a large part of its populace to sink or swim when their health fails. Personally, I can’t stop thinking of their fine propensity to defend – utterly – the right of their citizens to shoot each other in vast numbers.

    So, please Miss Davies can you start taking some advice from A Proud American on how to be well-mannered, how to be graceful, how to be mature and how to properly review a restaurant the owners of which he is plainly personally acquainted with. I mean, come on, can’t you at least misrepresent some of the facts so his friends can cultivate a successful business. Is that too much to ask? Really, were you raised by dingoes on some sandlot in outer suburban Perth? Can’t you pretend the loud customers were actually mute? Or Canadian? Better yet call them Australians as we all know how crass and rude they are, right? I mean, really it’s simply terribly immature to comment on your experience in a piece written to, erm, comment on your experience.

    As an Englishman resident in Australia may I apologise on behalf of my adopted nation Proud American, for my adopted compatriots and their propensity to drink (at a bar of all places) and adopt a loud manner so even your school monitor voice (pardon me but I have no idea what that means) can’t quell their rowdy boorishness. Please, do come back to Miss Davies’ blog, and please do impart more of your wisdom and maturity to we Australians. With luck and hard work we may one day aspire to be like your nation with its wonderful democratic traditions and equitable society. God willing, we may one day be able to ram our values down the throats of an unwilling world. Backed by overwhelming numbers of weapons we can’t pay for. Naturally.

    And just remember Jess.. tolerance…. please. You know the same tolerance as shown by that nation that locks huge numbers of its (black) citizens in jail so as to create a more harmonious society. I’d love to quote someone like Montaigne at this point but I live in Australia so Im rolling drunk now and even if I wasn’t I’m barely able to read, and even if I could read I have no access to a library to read old stuff like Montaigne. Luckily Bush didn’t close EVERY library in the US so APA has been able to regale us with some wisdom from 16th century France. ANd I always thought Montaigne was a brand of French cigarette. Well, you live and learn. From Proud Americans. Obviously.

  4. Philip McVey says:

    PS: Go on admit it Mr/Ms Proud American..
    you were watching Tom Cruise go at Jack Nicholson in a ‘Few Good Men’ when you wrote that weren’t you? That scene always gets me.
    In the lower intestines.

  5. Greg says:

    Americans are loud. (Actually, anglophones in general, but especially Americans.) It’s simply a fact. Ok, obviously not all Americans are loud. But if you’re in a restaurant in France and you can hear someone’s conversation from four tables away, they’re very likely to be speaking English with an American accent.

    This is one aspect of life that the French have really perfected: everyone talks just loudly enough for their table to hear, and hence restaurants are pleasantly filled with the gentle murmur of conversation. There’s no throbbing music and no one has to shout to be heard. One of the things I dread about going back to the United States is the loud, loud restaurants.

    — Another American, proud but not blindly so.

  6. Handy Andy says:

    I have fond recollections of Americans in Paris. “where’s the train station?” – gallic shrug in response – “WHERE:S THE TRAAAAYYYNN STAYYYTION?” (much louder)
    I always find that shouting things in an American accent aids understanding with Johnny Foreigner. Americans abroad are easily as boorish and ignorant as my own countrymen. Take it on the chin buddy.

    – australian and far from blindly so.

  7. Jen says:

    As an American citizen, Miss Davies’ dining partner from last Friday night, and a resident of Paris for the last 7+ years, I would like to briefly respond simply to say that when one must YELL AT ONE’S DINING PARTNER in order to hear and be heard, it is a great distraction from a fine dining experience (one that rounded out at €100 per person, which I will probably spend on one dinner in a restaurant once a year or less…)

    I agree with Jess’ idea that if we had asked every single person in the room to stop talking – for just a second – we could have perhaps convinced them that using our “inside voices” might lead to a more positive experience for everyone in the restaurant.

    For one, I thoroughly enjoyed the gastronomic aspect of the evening, but I would never return to a restaurant in which I felt I needed earplugs to enjoy my €100 dinner.

    (Oh, and by the way – certain cultural references inadvertently gleaned from the conversations around us lead me to believe that they were all, indeed, hailing from the US – not our northern neighbor with a similar accent!)

  8. Jess says:

    Dear Proud American,
    I am disappointed that I have managed to offend you to such an extent as it is never my intention to offend anyone. While I see that my comments could be seen as harsh, they were simply an expression of the events of the evening and my feelings towards them. I certainly hope that the owners and staff of Verjus and anyone else who happens to read my post are able to discern the point at which it shifted from being a review of the restaurant to a discussion of the events of the evening. At no point did I say that these two things were connected apart from that they happened in the same physical space.

    I didn’t single out Americans for any reason other than the fact that they were the only people “surrounding my table”. If it had been a group of loud Australians, Italians, Canadians (yes, I am capable of picking the difference), French, Japanese, Nepalese, whatevers, I would have said exactly the same thing. That’s great that Americans are coming to Paris and supporting their fellow countrymen’s endeavours, however as I stated in my original post, the folks sitting at the tables either side of me clearly had no clue where they were or what they were eating. Their lack of interest/inability to listen to the descriptions from the very patient waitstaff made this fairly clear. This wasn’t the case for the American I was dining with at the time who asked additional questions and praised the efforts of the chef.

    I am well aware that Australians are noisy in pubs/restaurants/public spaces and I find this just as annoying. Hence I avoid spaces where this might happen. A 100 Euro per person restaurant is not the sort of place I would have expected to have to avoid for this reason. I thank you for reminding me about the acoustics in the room and agree that this definitely didn’t help. But again, except for perhaps suggesting a different flooring be installed, at NO POINT did my opinion of noisy voices influence my ‘review’ of Verjus. As I said, and you lated quoted me as saying, it was an “amazing meal.”

    And a note to my many American friends and any other US citizens who may be reading this – if I have offended you with my words then please feel free to shove a sock in my mouth. And then let’s all move on with our lives. Go to Verjus! It’s fantastic.

  9. another Jen says:

    (Note: this is a different Jen than the one who went to the restaurant with Jess).

    Jess, your desire to stuff socks into your loud dining neighbors’ mouths is perhaps a little harsher than I would have put it… but funny just the same. I hate it when I have to yell to be heard, whether it’s in a restaurant, bar, or other public space, and no matter whether I paid 10€ or 100€.

    As Greg states above, Anglophones (and perhaps especially Americans) are pretty loud in public in comparison to French people. It is of course a generalization to say that, and of course we all know it’s wrong to generalize, but sometimes generalizations have some element of truth to them. Personally, I’ve seen (heard, rather) a lot of very loud North Americans and British people while riding the Paris metro; they’re often discussing this or that tourist attraction or restaurant they’re planning to go visit on their trip. And all the other passengers on our way to work stare at them and silently wish they would get off at the next stop so we can all get back to staring off into space contemplating our ennui, or alternatively, playing Angry Birds.

    Unfortunately, loud dining is deeply entrenched in American culture, and in many of our restaurants the noise level is far above safe levels, so we have been trained from a young age that when you’re dining out you need to shout. In fact, the habit is so entrenched that I think many people feel anxious if they go into a place and it’s too quiet. They worry that it means there’s something wrong with the place. So don’t be too hard on your co-diners; they might not be able to help themselves. (That doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to feel annoyed about it, though…)

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/20/nyregion/in-new-york-city-indoor-noise-goes-unabated.html

    Signed,
    just another “Proud American,” who can take a joke (and also the occasional, justified piece of criticism).

  10. Mum says:

    Dear Proud American,
    I am very proud of my Australian daughter and I can reassure you that in no way would she intentionally offend anyone. I certainly found your comments about my daughter offensive in the light that you certainly do not know her.
    She was bought up to be well- mannered and to show respect towards others. Hopefully, we can all move on.

  11. Mike says:

    It is sad to see such prejudice taking place. Admittedly every country has its weaknesses and you could say down falls. I see that a big rescue team of family and friends has come to save you Jess from the wrath of Proud American. Nice of them. A familiar occurance perhaps? However not being either an American or Australian myself I did still find your post offensive. I detect an air of gen y ignorance and what I would call over privileged youth who believes she knows better. I’m not sure why everyone is getting stuck into Proud American when it was you who posted such a comment. I am sure you might be a nice person but regardless the comment was unnecessarily bold and judgemental, showing a side of you that as a reader I do not appreciate. As a neutral by stander and not one of your friends and family I concur that you have upset me and additionally many others who may simply keep quiet. I will not continue to read this blog and I am certain that prejudice and immaturity kills any good skill/s one might have. Keep enjoying being better than Americans or everyone else.

    Mike

  12. Jess says:

    Hi Mike,
    Again, didn’t mean to offend and I most certainly do not believe I am better than Americans or anyone else. I don’t think anyone is better than anyone else. And once again, I was not being prejudice – I would have been called a liar if I had said that I was surrounded by groups of people from any other country because the fact is, they were American. Would I have caused as much of a problem if I had said that I was surrounded by Japanese tourists who were taking photos of everything? Or Italians who complained that the food wasn’t as good as at home? Or Brits who were wearing socks with sandles? Or Australians who refused to drink anything but VB beer? I am not ignorant, I am not prejudice, I am not a bigot. In fact, I was very aware of what was going on around me and I then made observations about it. It has become clear that my sock comment has gone far deeper than intended – in Australia it is a light hearted comment. Clearly not anywhere else and if this all boils down to a communication error, then I will change the word “socks”.

    I can assure you I didn’t ask any of my friends and family to ‘rescue’ me and it was entirely their decision to say everything that has been said. Perhaps it is a downfall of Australians to be unnecessarily bold and judgemental.

  13. Katy says:

    As a British person, Miss Davies, I take great offence to the suggestion that I would wear socks with sandals…

    Just kidding.

    This is all getting a little bit out of hand, no? Jess has clarified her comments, and the two negative comments have been filled with as much so-called “bigotry” and generalisations as they claim to be against.

    Mike: “I detect an air of gen y ignorance and what I would call over privileged youth who believes she knows better.” Really? You claim offence and then offend in return? I detect an air of hypocricy myself.

    A Proud American: I live in America, and for every loud-mouthed-obnoxious American I have met, I have also met a lovely, well-rounded, culturally sensitive American. Even so, it does not mean that the stereotype does not exist. We’ve all experienced it. And isn’t it true that the norm, the status-quo, always goes unnoticed while the exception is picked up on? Being as Miss Davies is yet to have posted about having meal experiences hampered by Americans in any of her previous blog posts of the past several years, I have to assume that this was the exception.

    Jess — I have had enough of reading self-righteous pompous blogs, and that is why I so enjoy the breath of fresh air I get from reading yours. I read because I want to hear your experiences of living in a foreign country for a few years. I read because I want to live a little vicariously through you. Keep doing what you do, those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.

    With much love,

    Katy

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